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digital advertising

How SMEs And Startups With Leaner Budgets Can Make Use Of Digital Out-Of-Home Advertising

Dubai's LifeOnScreen has introduced the first self-service marketplace of screen-providers and advertisers, connecting digital billboards and advertisers on one single platform.
How SMEs And Startups With Leaner Budgets Can Make Use Of Digital Out-Of-Home Advertising
Image credit: Shutterstock
Head of Growth at LifeOnScreen Global Ltd
8 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

"Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect." This Mark Twain quote should echo in marketers’ heads on a daily basis. If you are a marketer or business owner, then you should write this down, stick it somewhere you will constantly see it as a reminder to pause, reflect on, and consider: what side are you currently on?

90% of effective marketing is grabbing attention, then ensuring that the right message is communicated within that tiny window of attention you have grasped. It sounds almost impossible, but its not. A mix of creativity, timing and finding the right channels to effectively communicate to the right customer for your business is the key to success.

Traditional advertising medium effectiveness has been dropping steadily over the last years, failing to adapt to modern times and the new way in which we consume news and information.

Related: ENOC And Tasjeel Partners With LifeOnScreen For Digital Signage Offering

The main struggle marketers and businesses have today is the first part we talked about above— grabbing the audience's attention. The average earth dweller in the modern world is exposed to an absolutely ludicrous amount of messaging continuously, and across a number of devices and platforms. Social media keeps telling us we’re not good enough, and we’re losing the battle of keeping up with the Kardashians.

A few scrolls of Instagram and it seems everyone is #livingmybestlife, eating at fine locations, training hard at the gym, and traveling across the Caribbean. How does the lean business filter through all this to reach their audience, get their attention and …. bear with me here, without seeming like they are selling or advertising anything? Because you know what? We now live in a world where people will no longer tolerate either. So they switch off ad targeting, scroll straight past it, or "unfollow," if they feel that either of those things is happening.

It's no surprise really, marketing channels are overflowing with screaming matches about new products and clickbait. Eventually, every tactic that’s ever been used has a lifecycle. Once it expires, we look for the next marketing channel wave to ride and reach our audiences. James Currier, a well-known growth marketer explained the evolution of channels back in 2015- the data tells us that (almost) everything has an expiration date.

Source: LifeOnScreen

But that is not the objective of this article. What I’m getting to is the fact that Facebook Ads, Google AdWords, and -to an extent- content marketing is losing its effectiveness.

A survey published by the industry group Interactive Advertising Bureau in 2016 found that about 26% of web users had installed ad-blockers on their computers, and about 15% had ad-blockers on their smartphones. In the United States, the percentage of people using these ad blockers is as high as 40%. That's how passionate today's consumer is about not wanting their online space invaded by advertising and clutter.

But let’s just circle back here to the point at hand: we’d agree that audiences attention is the most important first step in an effective campaign, and eventually, customer conversations. So, with all the information and stats above, if you're an SME, startup, or lean budget organization, why would you choose to dabble in red ocean marketing strategies? Where, quite frankly (aside from an extremely lucky viral few), your campaigns will never be more than a needle in the haystack.

That’s why it’s better to leave the red ocean, and find a channel where you can reach your customers in a whole new -yet not so new- way. There is a channel out there that has not only survived for decades -and we’re talking ancient Egypt beginnings- but as of late is seeing substantial growth. This channel is impossible to ignore by audiences, and until just recently, was limited to bigger brands with even bigger budgets, due to its once upon a time incredibly high cost.

What is this channel that has even stood tall during the onslaught of the digital revolution? I’m talking about Out-Of-Home (OOH) advertising.

If you're walking around Dubai or anywhere in the Emirates, you simply cannot ignore or disregard the messages and graphics being displayed so luxuriously and prominently, sprawled across billboards and screens across the country. Dubai has one of most magnificent billboard displays that are mostly populated by luxurious big brands from automotive, fashion, or technology spaces.

Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH), a subsection of Out-Of-Home (OOH), has seen a tremendous upgrade in ways of delivering a message to hyper-local areas as well. Digital uses public screens, LED signs, tablets, and other digital devices to display messages either indoors or outdoors.

Source: LifeOnScreen

The industry became a lucrative business for a lot of media groups and networks. If you set the screen or billboard up, you only had to wait for media buying agencies to rent it out, and display their network of advertisers, then boom, instant success. The prices swelled up, and made it practically inaccessible to SMEs and advertisers with a lesser budget. Startups could only dream about posting on this sort of medium.

And there were other issues present as well.

It was always a hassle to change the content of the message once it was placed. Long sales cycles and waiting periods meant that your DOOH campaign was weeks or even months away. Not to mention, changing the creative work or the text on digital billboards was a nightmarishly long process involving many "middlemen" to deal with. 

Over the years, we’ve seen a transformation of old businesses and industries completely bring about a whole new and radical business model. The taxi ride has been replaced by Uber’s ridesharing. Airbnb disrupted the hospitality business, while they don’t even own any real estate and being the highest earner.

And the same is happening with the DOOH market. Dubai’s LifeOnScreen introduced the first self-service marketplace of screen-providers and advertisers. The company doesn’t own a single screen, yet they are connecting digital billboards and advertisers on one single platform.

Starting in Dubai, they already cover hundreds of screens in the city. Whoever wishes to promote their business or send a message to their audience can simply go to the platform, search the screen listings and choose which screens are relevant to their business. They then select, book, pay, upload their ads and the campaign is live!

From our previous discussion, we can already agree to a couple of value points.

Firstly, the marketing campaigns are narrowed down easily. If a company sells luxury items they can choose screens in hotels and locations frequented by the affluent, while a sports nutrition brand can target all health and fitness center locations.

Secondly, the prices are affordable, since there are no hidden contracts, middlemen or confusing long sales cycles. Advertisers book the campaign directly with the screen-owner for the time they wish to run the campaign and it’s all done online.

Lastly, it’s all automated and simplified. Choose the screens, upload your advertising creative, which can be a 20-second video or an image. The campaigns are scheduled by the back end according to your preferred dates and good to go in less than 10 minutes. Screen-owners don’t need to worry since every content piece that is being uploaded is filtered digitally and also manually in case there are any advertising regulations in place for a specific location (i.e. advertising alcoholic beverages in the Middle East).

The self-service platform lowers the technical and budget barriers significantly. Making an interesting choice for small businesses where previously, only bigger brands could play. Since the DOOH advertisements are delivered via a cloud network, the cost per day of advertising on a single screen can be as little as $3, depending on how popular the screen is and where it is located.

Best thing? Everything is handled from the advertiser back-end portal. Once the ad campaign is over, the advertiser gets a performance report with the number of ad showings (impressions) in their email inbox or their user profile on the website.

LifeOnScreen released and published one of the most comprehensible guides on how to use and master digital out-of-home advertising medium for businesses of all sizes or the curious, with a free resource available for you to view and download: Ultimate Guide to Digital Signage. Get your copy today, without having to put in your details or email.

Related: How To Stand Out (Without Making Any Noise): A Foolproof Guide To Using Soundless Video

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